Bentley Elementary School
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Bentley students were inspired by Truman Lowe’s “Waterfall” (1999), a part of the “Shapeshifting:  Transformations in Native American Art” exhibit.  Lowe’s abstract artwork shows the connection between nature and culture.  Pine wood is used and shaped into a waterfall over a grid.  Above the waterfall, a canoe appears. Viewers sense the importance of the physical universe to the Native American way of life.  Students were also attracted to Michael Belmore’s piece titled “Placid” (2011). Belmore’s art includes stones that abstractly show the “foam that dances on the water’s surface.”  Students were fascinated by the objects representing a quality of calm apart from the objects themselves.

During their museum visit, Bentley students were challenged to create their own naturescapes with cardstock paper, construction paper, tissue paper, and wood craft sticks. Students gathered their work and returned to their Bentley classroom and completed a cinquain poem focusing on one of the nature elements in their artwork.  Artwork was scanned and uploaded into an iPad.  Students used the application TypeDrawing to add a visual and colorful word effect to their naturescapes.  A great deal of thought went into word choice and color choice to illustrate the varied naturescapes.  Students employed this papertech strategy which added a new dimension to their interpretations of nature.


Bentley students were fascinated with the work of a Tsimshian artist:  “House totem pole” (1800s).  The totem pole was included as part of the “Shapeshifting:  Transformations in Native American Art” exhibit.  Students learned that a totem pole has various meanings depending on the culture that creates the totem pole.  Totem poles may illustrate stories that celebrate beliefs common to a culture, events of significance, and/or persons of historic distinction; these poles may also stand as artistic representations by an individual or by a community sending a message.


After their museum visit, students returned to Bentley determined to create their own totem pole as an artistic representation of what Bentley School means to them. Students understood the standard common to their fifth grade classroom and beyond to the Bentley community at large:  we are a family wherein we respect each other and value our diversity as an enriching experience; we strive for excellence.  Students decided to create the top section of their totem pole showing a rooster, the school mascot, representing Bentley pride in their community.  Other layers include word clouds of the school’s common core values:  respect, responsibility, life-long learning, tradition,perseverance, and excellence.  A photo collage (pictures taken around the school by students with iPods or taken from the web) adorns the totem pole. The collage includes words, people, and objects artistically rendering the message that Bentley School can and will be all that it can be!

Other Peabody Essex Museum Projects